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Category: Philosophy

The Good Will

The Good Will

“Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good, without qualification, except a good will. Intelligence, wit, judgment, and the other talents of the mind, however they may be named, or courage, resolution, perseverance, as qualities of temperament, are undoubtedly good and desirable in many respects; but these gifts of nature may also become extremely bad and mischievous if the will which is to make use of them, and which, therefore, constitutes what is called character, is not good. It is the same with the gifts of fortune. Power, riches, honor, even health, and the general well-being and contentment with one’s condition which is called happiness, inspire pride, and often presumption, if there is not a good will to correct the influence of these on the mind, and with this also to rectify the whole principle of acting and adapt it to its end. The sight of a being who is not adorned with a single feature of a pure and good will, enjoying unbroken prosperity, can never give pleasure to an impartial rational spectator. Thus a good will appears to constitute the indispensable condition even of being worthy of happiness.

“There are even some qualities which are of service to this good will itself and may facilitate its action, yet which have no intrinsic unconditional value, but always presuppose a good will, and this qualifies the esteem that we justly have for them and does not permit us to regard them as absolutely good. Moderation in the affections and passions, self-control, and calm deliberation are not only good in many respects, but even seem to constitute part of the intrinsic worth of the person; but they are far from deserving to be called good without qualification, although they have been so unconditionally praised by the ancients. For without the principles of a good will, they may become extremely bad, and the coolness of a villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also directly makes him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it.

“A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition [a ‘volition’ is an ‘act of will’, a ‘willing’]; that is, it is good in itself, and considered by itself is to be esteemed much higher than all that can be brought about by it in favour of any inclination, nay even of the sum total of all inclinations. Even if it should happen that, owing to special disfavour of fortune, or the stingy provision of a step-motherly nature, this will should wholly lack power to accomplish its purpose, if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing, and there should remain only the good will (not, to be sure, a mere wish, but the summoning of all means in our power), then, like a jewel, it would still shine by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in itself. Its usefulness or fruitfulness can neither add nor take away anything from this value. It would be, as it were, only the setting to enable us to handle it the more conveniently in common commerce, or to attract to it the attention of those who are not yet connoisseurs, but not to recommend it to true connoisseurs, or to determine its value.”

Kant

Impermanence

Impermanence

“Life is not fed by life … Life is fed by death.” Embrace impermanence. This short and profound video is very much worth watching.

God is the Universe

God is the Universe

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God did not create the Universe because God is the Universe. Both terms refer to the Totality of all that is. Totality can have no cause outside itself. The enterprise of science is to understand the physical structure of the Universe (space, time, energy, matter) including its fundamental laws or modes of
behaviour. The enterprise of religion is to determine whether and in what way our perception that consciousness (intentionality and awareness) is fundamental to the Universe is true and how that fundamental consciousness relates to our individual consciousness.

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged is more popular than ever among economic conservatives, precisely because it offers a full-blown defense of rapacious, predatory capitalism in a time of vast inequality.
 
Source and more on Rand

This is Francisco D’Anconia’s Money Speech from the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. An article on the Alternet site, ’10 Things I Learned About the World from Ayn Rand’s Insane “Atlas Shrugged”‘ reminded me of the book that I first read almost forty years ago. Atlas Shrugged is a fantasy about intense inventive individualistic industrialists who Rand presents as the ‘Atlases’ that sustain the world. Rand appeals to the individualist in all of us and we can empathise with the dedication and determination of her heroes. I’ve not re-read Shrugged in thirty years or so but I remember it fondly, as a fantasy, as I also remember ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Dune’, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and ‘The Dispossessed’ all of which I read in the 1960’s and 70’s. I took ideas from these novels and they have all influenced my imagination and the way that I see the world. It’s quite likely that Rand’s book (which is really quite vicious in a heroic Wagnerian) warped my perception for a while but I’m a fundamentally decent chap and it didn’t corrupt me too much or too long. Unfortunately Rand does seem to have corrupted and warped the perception of generations of Americans with her presentation of capitalism as a corollary of freedom and competence. Those who have read ‘Shrugged’ can hear its baleful echoes in a lot of the discourse of US politicians and media pundits, many of whom openly treat Rand’s text as sacred script as is revealed in this article.